Lynx enter WNBA playoffs as favorite to win again

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A year ago, the Minnesota Lynx opened the WNBA playoffs in an unfamiliar position after setting the franchise record for wins and making the team’s first postseason appearance since 2004. The experience of winning the title has the defending champions in a much different mind-set this time.

Minnesota (27-7) again finished with the league’s best record, matching last season’s win total, and enters the playoffs as the favorite to become the first team to win consecutive championships in 10 years.

With only two newcomers, Min­nesota’s chemistry was evident all summer as it opened the season with 10 wins, and then followed the only losing streak – a three-game skid in the first week of July – by winning 11 in a row. The Lynx did set one franchise record this year, going 16-1 at home – which could come in handy since Minnesota is assured of having home-court advantage every round.

“You don’t want to look too far ahead as far as defending a title,” star forward Seimone Augustus said of the Lynx, who open the playoffs Friday against Seattle. “We got to get past the first round, second round to get back to the Finals. So just being focused in on what we need to do against Seattle is the most important thing right now.”

The postseason begins tonight with New York (15-19) visiting Connecticut (25-9) in the Eastern Conference and Los Angeles (24-10) playing host to San Antonio (21-13) in a West series. Indiana (22-12) plays host to Atlanta (19-15) in the opener of the other East series on Friday.

Atlanta endured some turmoil in August, including a coaching change and the suspension of star forward Angel McCoughtry – the league’s top scorer. The Dream got past that and finished strong, winning seven of their past nine.

“We just need to make sure that we continue to play together, play extremely hard,” Atlanta’s Lindsey Harding said. “From this point on every possession matters. It is going to be a close game all the way through, so that is definitely our focus.”

The Fever, led by Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas, had at least 21 wins for the seventh time in eight seasons, but their depth could be tested in the opening round. Starters Briann January and Shavonte Zellous missed the last three games due to concussion-like symptoms and coach Lin Dunn hoped to get the two cleared to practice by Thursday.

MERCURY WIN LOTTERY, CAN PICK GRINER NO. 1

BRISTOL, Conn. — The Phoenix Mercury won the WNBA Draft lottery Wednesday night and earned the right to choose Brittney Griner with the top pick next year.

Chicago will pick second and Tulsa third. Washington, which had the worst record in the league (5-29), will pick fourth.

The Mercury (7-27) had the second-worst record in the league.

The 6-foot-8 center Griner guided Baylor to a national championship and 40-0 record. She headlines a talented class. Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne led the nation in scoring last season and is a versatile 6-5 guard who can score from almost anywhere on the court. Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins has guided the Irish to the past two national championship games.


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